Charity Spotlight: This blog post was provided by Gary Schneider and Shannon Hartigan from The Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
Prince Edward Island was once home to ancient hemlock and white pine trees shading deep freshwater streams flowing to the sea. Though black bears and lynx no longer ramble through our woodlands, they’re still stunning examples of native Acadian forests in pockets across the province. Healthy Acadian forests are profoundly diverse and unique ecosystems, with a mixture of tree species such as sugar maple, yellow birch and hemlock that can live up to 450 years. They are rich in wildlife, from the great horned owl to the red-backed salamander. These forests clean air and water, store carbon, provide excellent wildlife habitat and offer a myriad of recreational opportunities.
It is an unfortunate reality, however, that the Acadian forest continues to be under threat from land use practices. The World Wildlife Fund lists it as one of six endangered forest habitats in North America, and because of that, we are now taking action to restore our forests.
The Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island (ECO-PEI) is a community-based charitable organization working on issues that are important to Islanders and everyone who loves the province. Since 1989, we have worked to maintain and improve the health of our environment, from improving the food we eat to the air we breathe. One of our main activities has been facilitating the award-winning Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project helping save our Acadian Forests, which this year is 25 years old.
A Forest Under Threat
From very humble beginnings, the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project has become a leader in environmental education, forest restoration, native plant propagation and wildlife enhancement. We manage 800 hectares of public forest land in partnership with the provincial government and offer a wide variety of educational experiences – everything from school visits and plantings, to owl prowls and children’s camps. We are now celebrating our birthday with plantings throughout the year that are open to the public and will involve Islanders of all ages.
To help save our Acadian forests, our Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project has launched its ‘Restore an Acre’ campaign, which is focused on restoring acres of public forest land to benefit Islanders for generations to come. The campaign focuses on restoration work, from adding rare species of native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns, to diversifying existing conifer plantations. We will also offer tours of the area throughout the year and opportunities for volunteers to help plant and prune and get to know these woodlands.
The Confederation Forests
In 2014, we began creating three new Acadian forests, and to celebrate Prince Edward Island as Canada’s birthplace, we’ve named them Confederation Forests. These lands are protected, public and accessible properties which will grow to be lovely forests full of a wide range of native plants. All three are fields we have begun planting a variety of native plants on which will grow well in full sun. As these sites develop, we will add shade-tolerant, late-successional forest plants, including some of our rarest native species.
Sharing a Love of Nature with Future Generations
ECO-PEI and the Macphail Woods project are also working to teach the next generation of environmental stewards. Our summer nature camps continue to grow in popularity, involving youth from age 6 to 14. Participants come for five days and many come back year after year to learn about everything from water to wildlife, with opportunities to dissect owl pellets, plant native swamp milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies, and watch tadpoles develop into frogs. Activities mostly take place outdoors and combine experiential learning and physical activity with a healthy dose of fun.
We are working to inspire all Prince Edward Islanders to understand and care for the environment, while at the same time taking action to ensure that a clean, safe and all around healthy ecosystem is left for the generations to come.
ECO-PEI is also participating in the development of a new Water Act for the province, a critical part of protecting the local environment now and into the future. We are working with the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water to ensure safe drinking water and healthy aquatic ecosystems. In the area of energy and climate change, we are also working to encourage the use of more renewable energy in Prince Edward Island and the development of an energy strategy that will make the province a leader in the field. On top of all of this, we are part of a regional network working toward this goal across the Maritime provinces.
To learn more about The Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island, please visit their charity profile >>>